O'Driscoll to win 100th cap

2009-11-13 16:59

DUBLIN, (AP) - Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll will aim to mark his 100th test appearance with victory over Australia at Croke Park on Sunday.

The 30-year-old center will become only the 11th player to reach the milestone when he leads the Irish out this weekend for the first of their three November internationals.

O'Driscoll made his international debut against the Wallabies in 1999 and is now considered one of the greatest Ireland players, turning out 93 times for his country and on six occasions for the British and Irish Lions.

He captained Ireland to the Grand Slam in Six Nations earlier this year and he is now charged with the task of guiding the team to success against the southern hemisphere giants this month.

Australia arrived in Europe in a state of disarray, having lost six of its previous seven games and several key personnel sidelined by injury.

But Robbie Deans' team proved too strong for England at Twickenham last weekend and O'Driscoll is not taking the Wallabies lightly.

"Australia is a very smart team, the smartest in world rugby," O'Driscoll said. "They think about how to break down defences and have the personnel to do that.

"They're able to adapt on the pitch, changing from Plan A if they need to. That makes them dangerous, but also a great challenge."

Australia's Digby Ioane will be facing O'Driscoll on Sunday and the 24-year-old center admits it will not be an easy task shackling his opposite number.

"It's the biggest test of my life. Everyone knows he's the best center in the world," Ioane said. "I was watching videos of him and there's nothing wrong with him _ no missed tackles and he always gets over the line."

Australia will be the more battle-hardened of the two sides following its 18-9 win against England.

Not only did that victory end the team's poor run of results, it has also brought some much-needed confidence back into Deans' squad.

Australia lost on two of its last three visits to Dublin, and Ireland is currently holding a 100 percent record in 2009 thanks to seven successive wins. The last time Ireland had a perfect record in a calendar year was in 1972, when they won three matches in a row.

Ireland head coach Declan Kidney will hand Cian Healy his international debut, the Leinster prop replacing the injured Marcus Horan, who is out until the new year.

Fellow prop John Hayes will start after completing a five-week ban while Paddy Wallace has been preferred to Gordon D'Arcy as O'Driscoll's partner in midfield.

Australia's only change from last weekend sees David Pocock replace George Smith in the back row.